The Pulse

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As a society, we’re stressed. Really stressed. And it shows no sign of slowing down.

According to a Korn Ferry survey, workplace stress has skyrocketed 20 percent in the last 30 years with 66 percent of employees losing sleep due to it. Over three-quarters of respondents said work-related stress had spilled over into their personal lives; another 16 percent have left a job because the stress went unchecked.

Stress management has become a priority for many individuals and employers alike. We’ve heard it all: Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. Discover new passions. Make time for self care. Find a good therapist.

But what about laughter? There’s a good reason it’s widely regarded as the best medicine – it’s free and we can all do it. As managers seek out new ways to reduce employee stress and improve morale, more are gravitating towards humor as a possible solution.

It seems like a natural fit when you consider the short and long-term health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can stimulate your organs, soothe tension, and activate and relieve your stress response. There are other advantages, including pain relief, a strengthened immune system, and improvements in mood and personal satisfaction. It also creates a fun culture, which is essential for staff attraction and retention, and has benefits when it comes to attracting clients and customers as well.

Let’s look at four ways to encourage some much-needed silliness to release some stress in your workplace.

1. Rethink Your Meetings

Meetings can be incredibly productive, but they can also fall flat. Some of the world’s leading companies deliver a solid dose of hilarity to ease boardroom tension. For example, Ben and Jerry’s is known to make participants wear Groucho Marx glasses when someone uses the word “serious” during a meeting. Another sprays silly string at team members when they use buzz words. Even organizing a fun icebreaker activity to kick things off can go a long way in making staff look forward to meetings, instead of dreading them.

2. Fun and Games

Putting something regular and concrete into play can be great for morale. Plenty of workspaces have things like board games or foosball tables – all of which are great – but more formal activities or theme days can be even more effective. A wig day when everyone comes in with crazy hair, or a day where all staff must refer to themselves in the third-person can result in a lot of laughs. Crazy cook-offs and amusing competitions with funny prizes also get the job done.

3. Hire Fun People

This goes without saying, but if you fill the office with fun people, you are automatically going to have more belly laughs. Hiring someone based solely on their credentials went out the window a long time ago. We know that character, emotional intelligence, and the ability to learn and adapt are all important factors in the hiring decision that can’t be determined by simply reading a resume. Ensure job applicants are being asked a few fun questions in the interview process that gives a glimpse into their personality. In turn, you’ll get a feel for what they will contribute to your culture.

4. Set the Tone

It starts from the top! Well-placed humor – especially at the management level – can go a long way in creating a vibrant workplace. In fact, surveys have shown it’s crucial. A Bell Leadership survey identified superior work ethic and a good sense of humor as the two most important traits of a good leader. Over 90 percent of executives who participated in a Robert Half International survey reported a good sense of humor is important for career advancement. Eighty-four percent suggested those with good senses of humor did a better job. Incorporating humor into your leadership style can put your staff at ease, help build trust and boost creative thinking. If you set the tone, others will follow.

Of course, while laughter can be beneficial, balance is always needed and some businesses will always require a higher level of decorum. Perhaps a dress-up day isn’t appropriate during business hours at a funeral home, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen at all. Internal meetings and functions, or after-hours events can also help employees blow off steam.

Irish playwright Sean O’Casey once said, “Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.”

Let’s lighten up.

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